Free Speech and Inclusion: How College Students Are Navigating Shifting Speech Norms
Co-authored by the Constructive Dialogue Institute and More in Common, this report brings data to inform the public conversation about the current state of free expression and inclusion on college campuses. Using a nationally representative sample of 2,618 college students, we assess whether norms of discourse skew toward liberal values, explore how students across the political spectrum experience their campus dialogue culture, and identify core values that drive conflict surrounding speech.
The data in this report paints a vivid picture where neither freedom of expression nor inclusion is thriving on college campuses across the United States, and the fight over which to prioritize is hindering learning environments desperately in need of both. However, students across all ideologies expressed a value for dialogue, making it evident that there is hope and a path forward for institutional leaders. The recommendations closing the report lay out what a strategic plan toward change could look like for higher education institutions. You can download the report below.
"College classes are a place for students to feel uncomfortable and grapple with difficult concepts in the world. Students need the opportunity to correct one another and have hard and sometimes offensive conversations with one another."
—Natalie, a conservative and a senior at a private school on the West Coast
"[Cancel culture] is just a shift in general culture. Ideas that were once deemed as normal are simply now being confronted and questioned."
—Eduardo, a liberal and freshman at a public community college on the West Coast
Students across the political spectrum endorse traditional academic values
- 90% of students believe that “no matter how different we are, we can understand each other’s experiences by listening and empathizing.”
But show less agreement on social justice values
- 57% of students believe that “people from marginalized groups understand American society better than people who are not from marginalized groups do.”
Although students differ on social justice ideas, causing contention around speech, shared academic values can foster more open discourse.
Download the Report
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